The Solomon Islands government has signed an agreement to restore the mining lease for the Gold Ridge project of Gold Ridge Mining Ltd on Guadalcanal. The government cancelled the licence in 2016 because it believed the previous owner St Barbara Ltd had breached the Mines and Minerals Act, and the Mining Agreement.
Authorities claim the breach came about due to St Barbara's sudden departure from the project following complications around flash floods in April 2014, which compromised the mine's tailings dam and impeded access to the mine.
Restoration of the lease effectively restarts efforts by landowners and majority shareholder, Chinese-owned Australian property developer AXF Group, to re-open the mine.
St Barbara has repeatedly denied abandoning the mine and stands by its transfer of ownership, via the sale at a nominal amount, to local landowning company Gold Ridge Community Investments Ltd (GCIL).
The Australian miner also denied claims by GCIL following the sale that it had saddled the local landowner company with all the environmental liability of the closed mine.
Following the signing of the agreement with government to restore the mining licence, GCIL's chairperson Walton Naezon said landowners would be working closely with their chosen investor and the government to restore the mine to profitability.
Gold Ridge is around 30km south-east of the capital Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal. It is part of the Pacific Rim of Fire that hosts many of the worlds proven gold and copper deposits including Grasberg, Ok Tedi, Porgera, Lihir, Misima and Gold Ridge.
Cyclonic rainfall in April 2014 damaged mine access and resulted in accumulation of excessive water in the tailings storage facility (TSF) ultimately leading to the suspension of mining operations. A new water treatment plant was commissioned in November 2015 and dewatering of the TSF commenced in May 2016.
AXF has partnered with GCIL and aims to repair, refurbish and upgrade the Gold Ridge plant to bring it back into operation.